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Biden, Trump, and Gaza dynamic

According to recent polls, the US presidential race is a dead heat between Joe Biden and Donald Trump (File/AFP)
According to recent polls, the US presidential race is a dead heat between Joe Biden and Donald Trump (File/AFP)
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28 Feb 2024 02:02:02 GMT9
28 Feb 2024 02:02:02 GMT9

It is less than nine months before the US presidential elections in November and, according to recent national polls, it is a dead heat between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Despite his age, memory lapses, and controversial position on the Gaza war, Biden may yet survive despite a dismal approval rate of less than 40 percent and a vicious attack by the Republicans led by none other than Trump himself.

Tuesday’s Michigan primaries will be crucial in many ways. The state is home to the largest Arab-American community in the country. The majority voted for Biden in 2020, but now a grassroots movement is calling on Arab-American voters to vote “uncommitted” on their ballot papers to send a strong message to the White House that come November, he cannot count on their vote. Even if Trump wins the presidency, they say, it is not on them.

Biden’s unequivocal support of Israel’s war on Gaza will be a factor in deciding his chances of winning a second term. According to polls, around 60 percent of Americans want a ceasefire in Gaza. Biden risks losing the support of young Democrats; including Generation Z, millennial voters, and progressives. They helped him defeat Trump in 2020.

Barring an unexpected event, Biden will contest the November elections as the Democratic nominee. The Arab- and Muslim-American vote will be key in helping him close the gap that separates him from Trump in national polls. Democratic pundits hope that his economic record and Trump-phobia will come to his rescue.

But he needs to address his record on Israel and its gross violation of human rights, the laws of war, international humanitarian law, the Geneva Conventions, and others concerning its belligerent conduct in Gaza.

The American people have no stomach for another month of genocidal war in Gaza, especially if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes ahead with an all-out ground offensive on Rafah, home to more than 1 million people, against US and international warnings.

Biden’s unequivocal support of Israel’s war on Gaza will be a factor in deciding his chances of winning a second term

Osama Al-Sharif

The Biden White House has been trying to adjust its policy on the war. It is now admitting that far too many Palestinians have been killed and that Israel’s response so far has been, in Biden’s own words, “over the top.”

Still, his administration continues to arm Israel and fund the war, and Netanyahu has ignored Biden’s advice and pleas to bring the military operation to a swift end.

It also revived talk about the need for a Palestinian state through the two-state solution without specifying what that solution would look like or how it would be implemented when Netanyahu and his far-right partners adamantly rejected it.

Biden’s hands are tied because it is an election year where he faces an uphill struggle to get re-elected. He is avoiding a public quarrel with Netanyahu for fear that the Republicans and Trump will accuse him of abandoning Israel to its radical Islamist enemies. But such a clash will come sooner rather than later: Over Netanyahu’s declaration that Israel will never withdraw from Gaza, settler rampage in the West Bank, approving building permits for new Jewish settlements, and even waging total war on Lebanon.

On the other hand, Trump appears to be close to clinching his party’s nomination as soon as early next month.

Israel’s war on Gaza has not been a centerpiece of the former American president’s attacks on Biden. He has focused on issues that matter most to his constituency — borders and illegal immigration, abortion, gender issues, and drugs, among others.

Republican pundits and conservative media have also focused on this while siding blindly with Israel and its decimation of the people of Gaza. When Trump was asked where he stood and what he would do if he were in charge, he offered incoherent and vague answers. Yes, he was behind Israel and would not have let Hamas launch the Oct. 7 attack. He suggested that the Israel-Hamas war would have to take its course.

“So, you have a war that’s going on, and you’re probably going to have to let this play out,” Trump recently told Univision.

Trump would go after Iran and its proxies and would argue that he would have secured the release of American hostages held by Hamas. He said he would reject refugees from Gaza from entering the US, and he has called for ideological screenings for those entering the country. And once again, he vowed to bar immigrants who supported Hamas from entering the US, and would send officers to pro-Hamas protests to arrest and deport immigrants who publicly supported it.

He avoided any reference to a Palestinian state or to his 2018 peace plan, which the Palestinians rejected and got tepid attention from Netanyahu back then.

The fact of the matter is that while Trump cannot but declare his support for Israel, he has yet to deal with a divided America on the issue of Palestinian self-determination and Israeli atrocities.

Will a second term for Biden change his approach to the conflict as he pushes to make the two-state solution happen?

One argument is that Biden would be free of pressure from Congress and lobbies and may want to repair his policy following the devastation incurred on the Palestinians, especially in Gaza.

That depends on several factors, including how soon the war will end, what happens on the day after, the pressure from the international community and Arab allies to deliver a balanced approach to bring some justice to the Palestinians, and what happens in Israel itself after the war and whether Netanyahu and his extremist partners will prevail.

On the other hand, if Trump wins in November, he is unlikely to do anything quickly unless a regional war has erupted in the Middle East.

One should expect the unexpected from Trump. He may learn from Biden’s foreign policy faults or opt to be the maverick that he is and decide that America has had enough of the Middle East and should focus on its real rival, China, instead.

Despite what “Genocide Joe,” as Arab-Americans and young Democratic voters are now calling him, does from now until November, his chances of winning will not be easy.

The courts may decide Trump’s fate, and if he is convicted, his fight to stay in will depend on his ability to finance his campaigns, and legal precedents.

The lesser of two evils will be Biden and a Democratic administration. Still, in all cases, the political chaos ripping America apart should come as a wake-up call to the leaders of the Middle East to chart their own course. No one in the region, apart from a handful of zealots and bigots in Israel, wants to see a regional war flare up.

And no matter how the war on Gaza ends, the world is coming to realize that a just and lasting solution to the Palestine issue must be reached to avoid another Gaza-like catastrophe.

  • Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. X: @plato010
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